Interviews Wednesday with GOP officials and strategists in several states found no panic or calls for Romney to crank up his criticisms of Rick Santorum to secure the nomination. But they expressed varying degrees of worry that Santorum's and Newt Gingrich's attacks on Romney are inflicting wounds that might not fully heal by Nov. 6.
"The shelf life is 48 hours for a lot of this," including small-bore disputes over policy differences, said Steve Lombardo, a veteran of many GOP campaigns.
"The bigger concern is the negatives the governor has built up on his unfavorable rating," Lombardo said, referring to impressions that Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, waffles on key principles and can't relate to working-class people. "Those can be harder to reverse," he said, and Romney would like to address them without potshots from his own party.
South Carolina Republican Chairman Chad Connelly is more upbeat. He says Romney won't suffer from a protracted nominating process.
"A longer, drawn-out primary engages people across the nation," Connelly said. He said Obama put the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy behind him because he dealt with it forcefully in the spring of 2008, months before the general election. The "swiftboat" attacks hit Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry much later in the 2004 election cycle, "and he never recovered," Connelly said.